I want a new Pixar film that is like an updated Osmosis Jones. But in this one, the hero is tomboy bacterium Steph Aureus. Her best friend, Eric Coli has been kidnapped by a demented scientist, Penny Cillin and to rescue him, lil Steph has to traverse the guts of a teen girl, Annie Host, who is having parallel relationship issues.
On the way, she has to negotiate the domains of commensal but grouchy bacteria like Claus Difficile, a bunch of kerrazy nematodes (giants, to her, like sandworms) and break bacteria taboos and become friends with Pandora, the biggest virus.
This movie shall be called:
‘COUGHES AND SNEEZES’
Pixar, if you make this, I will give you all my money. ??
It’s going to be hard for me to write about this film because when I watched it, I didn’t know anything about the plot. This lead to some nice surprises within the first five minutes. So… I’m going to be vague where I can so I don’t ruin it for you.
‘CAJF’ is genre-tagged as being an indie film and a rom-com. But whilst it is both of those, it’s also neither. It doesn’t feel indie to me because it feels very big budget and Hollywood: at no time did I think ‘wow, had to cut corners there.’ Yet, it’s budget was only $840,000 which is definitely on the indie side compared to the turgid blockbusters that clog our multiplexes like obstinate turds.
It’s a rom-com and it’s not. It deals with sexual relationships so it’s definitely about romance. And it’s very, very funny so it’s definitely a comedy. Where it differs from production-line rom-coms is in its heart, wit and depth. There is more going on here than the usual A-B-C-A of normal rom-com narrative structures.
‘CAJF’ is about two people who have been best friends since they were kids. This turned, at some stage, into sexual love and they were a couple. Where we find them is at a curious stage of their relationship (again, I don’t want to say too much in case of spoilers). Celeste has a good job as a trends forecaster and Jesse lives in a studio outbuilding in her back yard, working as in illustrator but being lazy at it. In the setup, it’s a perfect framing of many contemporary relationship trends where an intelligent, ambitious woman seems to end up involved with a loveable but un-focussed manchild. A lot of my single female friends are women with 21st century values dating boys with 1950s values.
The leads Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play Celeste and Jesse with considerable finesse. This is the detail that elevates ‘CAJF’ over the average will-this-do? boy-meets-girl nonsense. The ground these actors have to cover is scary: balls-out stupidity one scene and then the most intense, heartbreaking closeness the next. It’s this heterogeneity that makes ‘CAJF’ a wonderful film in that we don’t just see the mawkish, fantasy relationship of an average rom-com, we see everything. Without the tremendously silly parts, the horribly sad parts just wouldn’t have the punch they do because we’ve had time to know these people as fully-rounded characters, not as the thin ciphers of most modern romantic cinema.
Real love isn’t a storybook arc, neatly wrapped up in fucking montage scenes and awesome soundtrack choices. It’s messier, more brutal and carves your insides out so nonchalantly that you don’t realise what’s gone till you look down and see the gaping mess left behind. ‘CAJF’ is a film about real love so to call it a rom-com is about as accurate as calling ‘Apocalypse Now’ a war film. Like that work, ‘CAJF’ transcends its genre conventions by daring to go further. How many other rom-coms are based around a divorcing couple? How many would have side romances where the characters were depicted as real humans like ‘CAJF’ does?
As a divorced man myself, the last scene that Celeste and Jesse share was tremendously moving. I know what it’s like to say goodbye to someone that’s been part of your life for more than a decade, to realise you won’t be seeing your best friend any more. But I have never seen that represented in any love story until now.
Thank fuck *someone* is making real films about love.
I watched this today because Mark Kermode pointed me towards it in his Kermode Awards. I’m glad he did, otherwise I might have missed out on a charming, funny, sweet film.
‘Kings Of Summer’ centres around three teenage kids who decide to run away from their homes for varying reasons. Joe (Nick Robinson) because of the fractious relationship with his Dad (Nick Offerman), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) because of his hyper-nice parents (Megan Mulally and Marc Evan Jackson) and Biaggio (Moises Arias) because he’s basically a mentalist with a machete.
Joe believes that by living in the wild, they can finally become men so they set out to achieve this and, in some ways, they do. These sequences are some of the most beautifully shot in an overall gorgeous film ~ Ross Riege has managed to capture the summer sun in ways that make you feel that it’s gently nuzzling your skin. Complications to the nature idyll ensue when a supercute girl, Kelly (Erin Moriarty), enters the scene.
This is a little gem of a film because everything is pitched perfectly. Whether it’s the broadest, stupidest comedy or the righteous anger of friendship betrayed, the cast and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts hit the target. The breadth of the film may cause problems for some viewers who prefer their genres more constrained. For me, it made it seem more realistic in that the kids were kids but they were also extraordinary, the parents were annoying but they were also human.
Above all, this is a fucking funny film. Moises Arias is a comedy genius, delivering some of the stupidest things a human being has ever said with mastery, displaying his chops as an actor: his character could not be more unlike that of Bonzo Madrid. Obivously, all the actors playing parents are no slouches themselves comedically and Offerman, Mulally and Jackson are light, natural and totally nuts at the same time as being believably distraught at their sons’ disappearance. That’s hardly an easy gamut of emotions to cover.
Basso, Robinson and Moriarty deliver performances that are dynamic, detailed and, above all, realistic. Incredible work from young actors who, at the time of filming, were all still teenagers. This is where ‘Kings Of Summer’ most reminds me of ‘Stand By Me’ in that the central performances by young actors are easily as good as actors two or more times their age. If these kids are this good now, what the fuck are they going to be like in a decade or so?
But great actors, stunning photography and a sharp director still mean nothing if the words fall flat. The last ace that ‘Kings Of Summer’ has up its sleeve is a script that’s as silly as it serious and which can tumble from slapstick in one scene to sublime communing with nature in the next and it all feels unforced and smooth. Credit to Chris Galleta here for some snappy one liners and bizarrely informative vignettes. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at a teenager screaming the words ‘WE ASSUMED!’ before. I have now.
In terms of feel, I’d say ‘Kings’ most reminds me of ‘The Station Agent’ or ‘Garden State.’ It’s not transreal enough to echo Wes Anderson but it also has more out and out jokes. I feel bad because I haven’t time to write about every actor here but they were *all* superb. This film has no supporting actors, the ensemble cast create a skewed but believable world full of frustrated kids, weird cops and cringe-making acappellas. No filler here, not a second.
I won’t spoil the last scene but it was as real as the rest of the film. If this was a sappy, big Hollywood affair, we’d have the kids spouting Dawson-esque psychobabble and every plot line being nicely resolved. The strength of ‘Kings Of Summer’ is its bedding in mundane reality and its ability to depict the transcendence of that reality via friendship and nature.
The credits are rolling on ‘Adventureland’ and I’m left happy, puzzled and slightly nostalgic.
I’m happy because it’s a deftly told love story that has enough adolescent awkwardness in it to be convincing. So many teen/early twentysomething love stories feature improbably reflexive, loquacious and confident central characters, seeing Eisenberg and Stewart’s sweet clumsiness is refreshing. Who isn’t awkward at that age? We may misremember ourselves as the cast of Skins, all pounding subculture and cool drugs but the truth is always stupider and, this is the crucial part, more boring.
That interstitial age is about having all of the dreams but none of the means. The theme park that is the backdrop for the film is the perfect metaphor for those years, of endless, penniless Sundays, having nowhere to go, nothing to do and cultivating a vivid hatred for every dull, smug brick of your hometown. ‘Adventureland’ captures that and weaves it into the inevitable boredom-avoidance activities: weed, terrible clubs, snogging in cars.
Kristin Stewart is uncannily, lambently beautiful in this film. Every frame she’s in, she fills with the gentle, easy glamour of a young Grace Kelly or Ingrid Bergman. In common with those actresses, she can bring both vulnerability and grit along with the looks and her character Em is nicely detailed. It made me very happy to see her spread her wings and fly in this role, she’s perfectly cast. I also love that the character isn’t a simple adolescent cliche: she’s not just geek-girl-slumming or beautiful-but-crazy or any other simplistic archetype. She’s complex, makes mistakes, loves, laughs, is an idiot and is also a genius. Y’know, like real people are. Again, kudos to Stewart for bringing all those qualities out without foghorning them, it’s adept acting.
Eisengberg’s James starts off as perhaps less complex than Em, we get a fairly broad future-writer-geek type. But in the course of the story, his character’s arc is also humanising. His job, initially a trial, seems to become a rite of passage that he accepts he might just need. The romance with Em, obviously the bigger rite, is transformative (as all first loves are) and it’s believable, sweet and realistic. I also like that there is a side romance here, this poleaxes any geek-loser pigeonholing his character could have faced. We are shown that even though he’s no Ryan Reynolds, girls find him cute so that informs the romance with Em.
Ryan Reynolds is great as Connell, he’s not cartoony douchey, we end up feeling sympathetic for him as much as we think he’s a bit of a knob. His character is a slight echo of McConaughey’s seminal (lol) Wooderson and the last shot of him is actually quite sad. Praise also for the rest of the cast, there’s not an off-key moment from any of them, whether it’s Hader and Wiig’s nice mentalness, Levieva’s nuanced disco diva or the totally rad Rush drum-solo. Dude.
So I’m happy. But I’m puzzled. I’m puzzled because I turned 21 in 1987 and so this film is essentially about my generation. And I didn’t really get a sense of that time from it. There were some nice soundtrack touches with Hüsker Dü, The Cure and even Animotion but… I dunno. I ended up wondering why it was set in ’87? Would have been nice to hear a bit of DM or REM or MBV. Maybe I’m being pernickety but the film transported me as a love story but not in time. Maybe they wanted to tell a love story devoid of texting, sexting, tweeting, vaguebooking and hyperemo Tumblr posts which I guess would be impossible with a contemporary setting?
So, the nostalgia for me came not from the period setting but the love story. It made me remember my first girlfriend, that sweet, terrible pain, the awkward, horrible doubt of wanting to say ‘I love you’ for the first time in your life. All of that, ‘Adventureland’ delivers flawlessly.
Watching ‘Chasing Amy’ tonight, can’t believe it was made in ‘97, woah.
I love the complexity of the sexuality represented and the way everything goes to fucking shit in a completely realistic, horrible way.
I also love this speech:
Alyssa: Why are we stopping?
Holden: ‘Cause I can’t take this.
Alyssa: Can’t take what?
Holden: I love you.
Alyssa: You love me?
Holden: I love you. And not, not in a friendly way, although I think we’re great friends. And not in a misplaced affection, puppy-dog way, although I’m sure that’s what you’ll call it. I love you. Very, very simple, very truly. You are the-the epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another human being. And I know that you think of me as just a friend, and crossing that line is-is-is the furthest thing from an option you would ever consider. But I had to say it. I just, I can’t take this anymore. I can’t stand next to you without wanting to hold you. I can’t-I can’t look into your eyes without feeling that-that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels. I can’t talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. And I know this will probably queer our friendship – no pun intended – but I had to say it, ‘cause I’ve never felt this way before, and I-I don’t care. I like who I am because of it. And if bringing this to light means we can’t hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But God, I just, I couldn’t allow another day to go by without just getting it out there, regardless of the outcome, which by the look on your face is to be the inevitable shoot-down. And, you know, I’ll accept that. But I know, I know that some part of you is hesitating for a moment, and if there’s a moment of hesitation, then that means you feel something too. And all I ask, please, is that you just – you just not dismiss that, and try to dwell in it for just ten seconds. Alyssa, there isn’t another soul on this fucking planet who has ever made me half the person I am when I’m with you, and I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the next plateau. Because it is there between you and me. You can’t deny that. Even if, you know, even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that I am forever changed because of who you are and what you’ve meant to me, which – while I do appreciate it – I’d never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.
And this fight:
Holden: They fuckin’ used you!
Alyssa: No! I used them! You don’t think I would’ve let it happen if I hadn’t’ve wanted to? Do you? I was an experimental girl for Christ sake! Maybe you knew early on that your track was from point A to B, but unlike you I was not given a fucking map at birth, so I tried it all! That is until we, that’s you and I, got together and suddenly I was sated!
There are great insights into the shittiness and double standards of the male ego. There are some lovely moments from a very young Affleck.
And then there’s that ending. The closure is pure fantasy, something we never get when real love breaks down. But we’ve all been through similar moments or imagined them.
Soo… I appear to be on a Wes Anderson jag again, after revisiting ‘Rushmore’ yesterday. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ just made me cry a couple of times.
As I was watching it, the weather outside seemed to be matching the film’s conditions though it didn’t hurricane or flood, so far.
Most obviously, it reminds me of the first girl I ever fell in love with. I was considerably older, being fifteen but I was probably less emotionally stable than Sam. She was the first girl I ever wrote a song about. It’s quite good, too!
Oh, and in case you were curious: when they first kiss and when he thanks her at the end.